I was already on a first-name basis with Southwest Airlines when I started my spring internship this year as my sister Rachel works for the Company. I’d studied Southwest’s public relations and advertising practices in all my classes for my public relations degree at Texas Tech University (TTU). TTU alumna, Linda Rutherford, is SVP and Chief Communications Officer at Southwest, and shines as a role model for fellow Red Raiders pursuing a career in media and communications.
But Southwest is so much more than what I knew before I joined the Team. Here’s what it’s like interning at a Company where your sister is also employed, and how, over the past few months, I’ve grown to love my experience at Southwest.
I’m both blessed and cursed with a striking resemblance to my four-years-my-senior sister, Rachel (pictured on the right). I’m a fierce individualist (all you enneagram types, you get me), and having a unique identity is very important to me. Brand identity is also very important, as my college public relations classes frequently reminded me of this notion. Southwest’s strong brand identity paired with Rachel’s version of her experience at Southwest put me in a bit of an identity crisis—what’s my Southwest experience?
My sister Rachel is a technical writer, on the hardworking Team that writes manuals to keep our Frontline Employees safe. She has a much firmer grasp on reality than me. Her technical world lived in the same mechanical, quiet part of my brain as faxes and trying to talk in a voice quieter than a whisper. Rachel is the “change the world quietly” type, who expresses herself much more eloquently and less dramatically than I do. Her Southwest experience involves respectfully enjoying what it has to offer, and taking greatness to perfection with words. That’s her Southwest, and it fits her.
My eyes lit up when I scanned my badge into the Southwest parking lot for the first time. My long-held dream was finally a reality, and it was as wonderful as it was routine. I began to understand Southwest, not as what I’d heard in classes or seen through my sister, but as what I got to do for the Company and who I did it with.
I’m currently an Intern in the Communications and Outreach Department, where communication is inherent, understood, and treasured. Specifically, I work with our Operations Communication Team and our Planning and Delivery Team, where I help find the best ways to bring attention to the great things our Employees in the field do. They’re always up to something amazing; we just communicate that. From designing digital signs, to writing stories, and editing them, I get to be a small voice to thank our People who work so hard to make this Company what it is. I also help publish content to our internal intranet or digital boards and edit some of the specific newsletters that go to each operations workgroup. I also compile and sort data about email viewership to see the effectiveness of our communication.
Even before my involvement in these incredible projects, I knew I would love this internship based on the People who surrounded me. My Leaders immediately welcomed me with joy and kindness, and my Planning & Delivery Team is always near to support me or share stories. I’m among People who are so kind, smart, and talented. Not to mention the fun collaboration I’ve gotten to do with my fellow Interns. I get to learn alongside them, and I willingly seek out opportunities to go outside my comfort zone with them.
During my time at Southwest, I’ve been uncomfortable and challenged. There’s been moments where I’ve felt like I haven’t belonged or that I’m ill-prepared to do what’s expected of me. But then I figure it out. Or I ask for help, and I always receive it. As I grow, my eyes are adjusting to fully see who Southwest is to me. And the view from up here is excellent.
How could I fail to mention the best support of all? A sibling in the Company means I always have a safe place to hang out after work to unapologetically talk about work. I get to have lunch with Rachel and her Coworkers, and I’ve gained a deeper understanding of her job when I got to shadow her for a day. With so many exciting things happening at Southwest, like Hawaii, it’s a unique time to be an Intern here, and I get to share in fun work developments with my own sister.
I haven’t lived in the same city as Rachel in seven years, and I’ve never gotten to share an experience with her like working at the same Company, making this all the more special. So far, there has only been one instance of one of my Intern friends mistaking her for me (that I know of). I’m grateful for this opportunity to grow, learn, and contribute a little to this amazing Company. And I’m even more grateful that I get to do it in the same place as my sister.